A Road Less Traveled…
Wesley H. ’74 and Dolores M. Whitman Establish
Three Endowed Funds in Psychology
January 21, 2009
Residents of Green Valley, Ariz., Wes and Dolores "Lori" Whitman recently attended Muhlenberg's regional Campaign Kickoff event in Scottsdale. Both are former students who took a less traditional path to Muhlenberg than most, but their ties to the College are just as strong. The Whitmans joined the Circle of 1848 in 2003 by designating funds in their estate plan to the psychology department. Recently, they made a plan for specific endowment funds that will benefit the psychology department, its faculty and students. Through a will provision, the Whitmans have established:
- The Wesley H. ’74 and Dolores M. Whitman Endowed Chair of Psychology;
- The Wesley H. ’74 and Dolores M. Whitman Endowed Scholarship; and
- The Wesley H. ’74 and Dolores M. Whitman Psychology Department Endowed Fund.
For Lori, a college education wasn’t a possibility until she discovered night school at Muhlenberg in the late 1950s. “I grew up in Quakertown. Muhlenberg was the closest institution that offered night courses,” she says. “It gave me the opportunity to go to school while working full-time.” Lori finished most of the coursework needed to receive her bachelor’s degree, but stopped short when family obligations intervened. She went on to become a paralegal, then moved to the banking industry where she spent 23 years. She retired in 2002 as a Vice President of Wachovia Bank. “I was one of the few employees to remain and be promoted through five mergers,” says Lori proudly.
Wes, who grew up in Telford, graduated from high school in 1955, married Lori in 1962 and they moved to Quakertown in 1967. “I had no money for college when I left high school,” he says. “But after we got married, Lori encouraged me to try night school at Muhlenberg. I took three night courses before quitting my job in structural steel design and drafting.” Wes took a part-time job and enrolled in classes four nights a week, which equaled 12 credit hours or a full-time load. He remembers that Dr. William French, who oversaw enrollment, was skeptical at first, but he allowed it. “I also applied for a student loan,” says Wes. “It was unusual for aid to be given to part-time students but it was approved.
Wes had originally wanted to pursue a business degree, but at the time, the only night option was accounting, which didn’t interest him as much. Instead, he pursued a degree in psychology, and graduated from Muhlenberg in 1974. Wes then earned his master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University and pursued a doctoral program in psychology at Stevens Institute of Technology, finishing all but his dissertation.
Industrial/organizational psychology is the study of the scientific structuring of organizations to improve the productivity and quality of life of people at work. Wes went to work for the human resource departments at New York Life Insurance Company and Banker’s Trust Company, now Deutsche Bank in New York City. “Part of my job was to develop employee surveys and programs to track things like absenteeism, or affirmative action initiatives back when computers were first coming out,” says Wes.
In 1993, psychology professor Silas White asked Wes to co-teach a night course at Muhlenberg, bringing his Muhlenberg experience full circle. When Dr. Kathleen Harring became chair of the department, Wes became an adjunct instructor for the psychology department, a post he held until his retirement in 1999. “I loved teaching,” says Wes. “I loved presenting the material and working with students. Some of my most rewarding work was instructing students with learning disabilities.”
“When I was a student here,” he continues, “the psych department was located in the basement of Ettinger. There was very little in the way of facilities: our lab was one little room. I made a promise that if there was ever anything I could do to help the psychology department, I would.”
But the Whitmans’ gift goes beyond an endowed fund for the department. “We decided to establish a scholarship because neither one of us could afford to have an education right out of high school,” says Lori. “We know there are others in the same situation.” As for the third portion of their gift, an endowed faculty chair in psychology, Lori and Wes both say that Muhlenberg’s faculty were instrumental to their education.
“Even after teaching all day, Muhlenberg professors would stay to help night students succeed – I’m talking 9:30 at night,” says Wes. “They were there to help us.” The Whitmans count Silas White, Ed Baldrige and Tom Lohr among their favorites and say they had better relationships with their professors than many day students.
“I was always the oldest person in class,” jokes Wes. “The professors here were very knowledgeable and helpful. The textbooks I used as a student were some of the same ones I used in graduate school, so I knew I had been given a good foundation.”
In 2004 the couple moved to Green Valley, Arizona to enjoy retirement.
The Whitmans’ gifts to the endowment through their estate plan qualify them for membership in Muhlenberg’s Circle of 1848. Since its founding in 1989, the Circle has had a substantial impact on the quality of learning Muhlenberg offers its students. Membership is open to all Muhlenberg alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends who name the College as a beneficiary in their estate plan, through their will, life insurance policy, trust or retirement plan. Legacy gifts from Circle members have a substantial impact on the quality of learning Muhlenberg offers its students, and ensure the continued vitality and development of the College from one generation to the next.
Dr. Laura Edelman, chair of psychology, says the Whitman’s endowment gifts will help to strengthen the department for decades to come. “Wes and Lori have been supporting the department for years,” she says. “Their continuing generosity has supported student research projects, allowed faculty to attend teaching of psychology conferences and provided us with more flexibility in working with students outside the classroom. Their endowments gifts will not only allow us to provide students with a richer experience, the student scholarships will allow us to expand the diversity of the majors.”
“After high school, I was not sure what I wanted to do,” says Wes. “Muhlenberg gave me confidence that I could get an education. I could do this.”
For more information on endowment gifts to Muhlenberg, contact the Office of Development & Alumni Relations at 484-664-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.